Amber Hart of Easley, SC didn’t grow up on the slopes of her local mountain, Cataloochee Ski Area. In fact she didn’t even learn to snowboard till she was in 9th grade. Now going into her senior year of high school, 17 year old, Hart can say she is a NASTAR National Champion.
What started as an idea during a boring ski day on a family vacation in Indiana two years ago has turned into a passion for Hart. “We didn’t take any lessons, we just went out on our own and learned. I picked it up before anyone else in my family,” says Hart. After getting up on her first try, Hart realized this was the sport for her. “I picked it up kind of quick and realized, hey I can do something with this, and I went from there.”
With her natural ability for snowboarding coming into focus, Hart began to compete in high school races. In tenth grade she upped the ante and started competing in USASA (United States of America Snowboard Association) races and making it to the USASA Nationals came pretty easily. This past year Hart decided to double down and compete at both the USASA Nationals as well as NASTAR National Championships. “We went to our local mountain (Cataloochee Ski Area) and there was a NASTAR course so I did it and qualified for Nationals.” With her first NASTAR race under her belt Hart found a new place to call home. “It’s more fun than USASA, because people are more friendly. You’re focusing on one event so you’re not as stressed out. It’s very stress free compared to USASA.” Once at the NASTAR Nationals, held at Winter Park Resort, Hart really started to shine.
Participating in the race clinics prior to the races enabled Hart to hone her natural ability and discover new skills to make her a better competitor. “I didn’t know how to race slalom. Having a coach there to teach me was a huge help. I always road in the duck stance and the coach taught me a new stance with my feet facing more forward.” One of the perks of being in a smaller division Hart basically had a private lesson. “I was the only snowboarder in the clinic so I got to go off and have my own coach.” Armed with new skills Hart took to the slopes with more confidence. “I did notice that I was more aggressive and I was faster.” Those new improvements took Hart all the way to the podium, winning the Race of Champions Combined Division. “It was amazing. The set up…everything,” says Hart about her experience at the 2012 NASTAR Nationals.
While alpine skiing is still the dominant NASTAR discipline, snowboarding is on its heels. With her success at last year’s nationals Hart is planning on defending her title again at the 2013 Nature Valley NASTAR National Championships held at Aspen/Snowmass March 20th -24th.